This morning we awoke in our own private room in our own little apartment, in our peaceful little VRBO. For those of you that are not acquainted with VRBO, here’s the lowdown. VRBO stands for vacation rental by owner. It’s an awesome website where people can post property they have and want to rent out to travelers. For example, if you were going to Hawaii & looking for somewhere to stay you might try this place:
The VRBO we’re staying in is actually the walk-out basement of someone’s house. They’ve converted it into two small apartments, a bachelor & a one-bedroom with kitchen. We’ve rented out both, so it makes it a nice two-bedroom apartment for the four of us. It sits on the top of a hill with a wonderful view of a valley & an olive grove. The owners of the VRBO make olive oil, so they own 600 olive trees that they harvest entirely by hand. We had breakfast out on the patio so we could take in the Italian scenery & morning sunshine.
When we were all ready to go we hopped in the car. We know, a car! It was crazily normal and yet so different for us on this trip! Our destination of choice this morning was Pisa. The town is famous for one particular sight, but let’s start with the town itself. It’s really nice, with what you imagine as classic Italian architecture. We did Rick Steves’ walking tour of town with Justine as our lovely tour guide. The walk ended in the Field of Miracles. And right in the center of that…the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of Europe’s most recognizable images. This tower is nearly 200 feet tall and 55 feet wide and leans at a 5 degree angle or 15 feet off the vertical axis. The first stones were laid in 1173 and it started to lean almost immediately after construction began. After it’s completion, several attempts were made to stop the slow-motion fall. The tower has recently been stabilized and visitors are once again allowed to climb to the top, though we didn’t. We just took lots of pictures of us and the tower.
When we finished in Pisa we hopped back on the windy, hilly, addles Justine’s brain, Italian roads. Next stop: Volterra. Volterra was once ranked among the most important Etruscian cities in Italy (before being absorbed into the Roman Empire). Today it stands atop a hill with impressive walls and topped with a grand fortress. We took time to stroll the streets, take in the hilltop views and admire the architecture. Even the streets within the town are hilly. This creates interesting side streets squished between the big stone houses.
For a lovely Italian snack we grabbed some gelato. It’s like ice cream but with less fat & more flavor…so basically it’s the most heavenly invention ever! Interested in our flavor choices: Justine = Lemon, Bev = Pineapple, Harvey = Terra Cotta (aka toffee-ish goodness), and Kristin = Black Cherry
Now you may be wondering how us book lovers have spent all of this time talking about Volterra and haven’t noticed the Twilight connection. If you think we missed it, then you underestimate our crazy-fan-girl-ish-ness. As everyone knows, because almost everyone in the world has read Twilight, Volterra is the home of the Volturi (being the evil ruling vampire family, for the two people out there who have managed to skip the fandemonium). Justine is now able to cross another location off her Twilight Bucket List…she’s already been to Forks, La Push and Seattle. Many don’t know that Volterra has had supernatural connections way before Stephanie Meyer based part of New Moon here. The cliffs of Volterra inspired Dante’s “cliffs of hell”. In the 1970’s Volterra was the setting of a TV horror show, Portrait of a Veiled Woman.
That picture was taken in a random alley that will not be recognizable to any Twihards. This is because the Volterra scenes from New Moon were not filmed here. However, walking the streets you can easily imagine the Volturi lurking in the shadows. We were careful not to be drawn into these shadows by a cloaked figure….perhaps with red eyes…and skin that sparkled in the sunlight.
For supper we decided to eat in. We still needed to plan out what we will be doing for the next couple of days so we picked up pizza. Yes, we had take-out pizza in Italy. But remember this is traditional Italian pizza! It was so delicious. We got two larges, which were gigantic. The one is margherita and the other is prosciutto & mushroom.
Love, Luck & Leaning Tower,
K&J + B&H